A Sigh of Relief

The first tinge of reds and ochres is coloring the leaves. So much beauty is just around the corner, and I don’t have to go anywhere to see it. Every morning when I step outside, there is a bit more color on the trees and bushes. It makes the cooler weather worth it.

The rosemary bushes are breathing a sigh of relief that summer is over and the farmers markets will soon be over. They are tired of me snipping away at them all summer. I am on their shit list for sure. They probably fantasize of swatting me away with their branches. Who knew rosemary bread would be such a hit and that I would need to snip so many rosemary stems? To ease the burden on the rosemary bushes, I’ve planted several new rows of rosemary plants. I guess you can never have too many rosemary bushes.

Pure Soy Milk

I received the OK from the Washington State Department of Agriculture to sell my soy milk. I’ve looked at the soy milks sold in grocery stores including stores like the Skagit Valley Food Coop and Community Food Co-op in Bellingham, and it’s impossible to buy unadulterated soy milk. Almost all of them have some added sugars such as cane sugar. They all have stabilizers such as gellan gum or carrageenan; salt; various vitamins; and some add oils such as canola oil. Pure soy milk doesn’t seem to be sold anywhere.

You can get it from me. I’m selling it on Saturdays at the Mt. Vernon Farmers Market in downtown Mt. Vernon, Washington. The Anacortes Food Coop also carries it.

And why would you want pure soy milk? If you are using it for cooking, such as making soups, curries, or hot pot dishes, having added sugars, gums, salt, and additional oils, ruins the flavor.

Raking Dead Sunshine and Devil’s Cats

All summer long the cherry trees have been soaking up the sunshine and converting it into green leaves. They are falling to the ground, and lie quietly, no longer shining, thousands of sunshine corpses. It doesn’t take long before there are mountains of them.

Before the chickens lay waste to the piles of fallen leaves, I need to cart them away to the garden. A flock of mischievous hens can destroy piles of fall leaves in minutes. Each flick of their legs sends a hundred leaves flying. Leave the piles unattended for long, and you’ll come back to fallen leaves scattered here and there, and chickens looking at you and wondering what they could have possibly have done to make you frown.

While carting the leaves to the garden, I ran into this phantasmagoric creature. How many barbs does this golden, slinking bit of fuzz have? If I were a bird, I’d think twice before swallowing this caterpillar of many quills. Interesting bit about the word “caterpillar”, it could be a variant of the French word “chatepelose” which means “hairy cat”. The Swiss German word for caterpillar, “Teufelskatz”, means “devil’s cat”. They must have similar caterpillars in Switzerland.

The World is Iridescent

On a sunny fall day, the world is iridescent. A luminous green fly shines on a corn leaf. A forest of corn is an insect haven. Every leaf has a fly, a wasp, or some other insect.

The sunflowers have reached the sky. They tower over the towering corn. Will I be lucky enough to harvest sunflower seeds this year? Last year, the birds plucked them bald all before I had a chance.

Some chickens are quite iridescent. I haven’t named these two yet, but the Turken, the one with the featherless neck, has some amazing feathers on her head and her back. Is the plain Buff Orpington jealous of the Turken’s coat of many colors? Is she wondering why she isn’t the iridescent one?

Summer Closes Its Door, Fall Opens Its

Summer closed its door this week and is gone for good. Fall’s door opened with gentle rains, sprinkled with a few lightning bolts and thunder. Two days of cool rain and the forest paths are soft and moist again. It feels like we are back in the Pacific Northwest.

We are enjoying fall greens this evening, picked fresh out of the garden. The dogs? They won’t be needing much if anything. They are feasting on wild rabbit they caught in the pasture while I was deciding which cabbage to pluck.

No one told me that one of my duties would be severing a dog-slaughtered wild rabbit asunder so that the two dogs would each get a half. Dogs are not good at sharing. Takuma carried the entire carcass into one of the dog houses and was going to eat it all himself. It was up to me to drag it out, divide it in two, and give half to Ena. I’ll spare you the gory photographs. Suffice it to say that nature is often not kind. Everything is eaten by something. It is a fact you are reminded every day when you live in nature. You’re just thankful it wasn’t you today when you lay your head on your pillow at night. I guess if my posts cease without notice, you’ll know something gobbled me up.

Ducklings Love Tofu

Ducklings love tofu, which isn’t a surprise. It is a favorite of the chickens too. Little ducklings are voracious eaters. No manners with them. It is gobble, gobble, gobble with them. I can see how slugs don’t stand a chance when ducks are after them.

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You’ll notice that ducklings like nibbling on greens too, which means I’ll need to navigate a way to protect seedlings from them as they scour the garden for slugs and bugs. Growing up, I often heard, “Where there is a will, there is a way.” You get to my age and you spend a lot of time pondering if the “way” is worth the effort.

After the Rain

After last week’s rains, it’s as if we closed the door on summer and opened it to fall. The air is clear without a hint of smoke. The rain toppled many a blooming stem, and now they lean down and sigh, tired from standing upright all summer, and ready to go to sleep.

Sunflowers bare their faces to the waning sun, their petals pulled back to expose their faces to as much sunshine as possible. Along the garden paths, the chickens gather and cavort. Novels could be written from all the intrigue, deception, scheming, and clandestine affairs of the hens and roosters. No sooner does a rooster establish his dynasty, than along comes another rooster plotting to toss him off his pedestal. Hens he thought were loyal to him are of no help. They can be as fickle as passing clouds.

Claire doesn’t have to worry about any of that. Safe in the hoop house, alone with her four ducklings, she doesn’t even have to worry about the rains or winds. She can devote all her time to feeding her brood. As you can see in the short clip below, she’s quite adept at digging up bugs and worms for her ducklings to devour.

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Moving Day

After sitting for 28 days on Cayuga duck eggs from our neighbor, Claire hatched four ducklings on the 6th of September. I moved her into a small nursery on the 7th, and today it is moving day, time to move her and the four ducklings into a spacious, protected home, our hoop house in the garden.

Goodbye tomatoes, goodbye peppers, goodbye eggplant. With just a single mother hen and four ducklings the plants may survive, but maybe they won’t.

It took no time for Claire and the ducklings to settle in. The ducklings are ecstatic with all the bugs there are to eat. “Go for the slugs! Go for the slugs!” I root them on. Claire won’t show them that ducks are supposed to love slugs above all other things. It may be something I have to do, but I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that. Claire’s first order of business is enjoying a fresh dirt bath after being without one for a whole month.

This is my first experience with ducklings. The biggest surprise so far, they peep a lot like baby chicks, which led me to ask, “When do ducklings start to quack?” The answer seems to be from about three to six weeks of age.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

We stepped outside this morning to the sight of a bright red moon, only to realize later that it was the sun. The smoke from the forest fires in the Cascades poured into the valley during the night and is thick today. The smell of burnt wood fills my lungs. The mountains are obscured and the sky is Martian orange. This must be what it is like to look up at the sky on Mars.

The forecast is for marine air to move in tomorrow and our blue skies to return.

Just a Few More Days

Our heat wave is almost over. Just a few more days and we’ll be back to our regular Pacific Northwest days. The forecast is for the sea breezes to return Wednesday evening.

Thanks to a deep well which lets us water freely, the garden is verdant and flourishing. It is a world of green, punctuated by blooming sunflowers, arugula, clover, and more.

Fissures wide and deep enough to make one trip or stub a toe have opened on the Great Western Dog Trail. In many places in the woods, the ground is cracked from our long, unusually warm summer.

In preparation for fall planting, I cleared an overgrown section of the garden and discovered where I’d placed a shovel and scoop I’d been looking for the last few weeks. During the summer, the garden grows so fast that a misplaced implement is quickly swallowed up and lost. A good reason to always put your tools away after you’ve used them. Leave them out over night and by morning you may not be able to find them.

In addition to discovering the shovel and scoop, I have a mountain of brush that will make good compost, and a basket of scrumptious onions. These are Ailsa Craig onions, are named after the island of Ailsa Craig off the coast of Scotland.